the movie Tangled: patriocentricity from inside the tower

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While Clay and Will were off to Monster Truck Jam over the weekend, Joe and I decided to take in a double feature and went to see The King’s Speech and Tangled. I had already seen the first one and really wanted Joe to see it too, it was just so excellent. I had received so many e-mails encouraging me to see Tangled that I was delighted to finally have a chance before it left the theaters and am I glad that I did! To all of you who kept telling me it serves up the patriocentric message, Disney style, it certainly does!

A month ago I read a review of this movie that left me a little puzzled. Already knowing the basic story line, I wondered how anyone could ever find sympathy with a lying, conniving, self-serving kidnapper but after having watched the film, it made perfect sense to me if you swallow a patriocentric paradigm along with your popcorn.

Rapunzel, the heroine of Tangled, is one of the sweetest Disney girls to come along and reminded me so much of the lovely homeschooled young ladies I know, many of them who also enjoy all the domestic skills the young heroine perfected in her tower. The adventure story itself is quite charming, complete with quirky characters and loveable talking animals. The artwork is gorgeous; the scene with the lanterns across the dark blue night time sky is one of the most beautiful I can remember in an animated feature. And yet, the backdrop of all that loveliness is a sharp contrast to the grievous story of a young woman trapped in a loveless home, longing to enjoy the world she can only see from her window.. Only those who have never experienced or observed such similar behavior in some patriocentric homes could find this simply entertaining. Some of it hit just too close to home for me.

From the beginning when we learn that the wicked Mother Gothel has stolen away the princess and used her for her own selfish purposes, there is something eerily familiar about her character and the story. She tells Rapunzel that the world is an evil place, that she is foolish to be interested in going out into it, that she should be content with her stay-at-home daughter life. Mother Gothel reminds the girl that she is her mother, after all, and she knows what is best for Rapunzel because she loves her so much. The message is one of fear, manipulation, and control, one we have witnessed many times in the writings of those who embrace this paradigm.

As opportunity presents itself and the princess leaves the tower in her quest to understand the mysterious lanterns that are sent into the sky each year on her birthday, Rapunzel struggles between the conflicting waves of guilt over leaving and disappointing the women she believes is her mother and her desire to understand herself and the world around her. The fluctuating emotions are exactly what I have heard from adult daughters who have left patriocentric households and who struggle with the fruits of emotional and spiritual abuse. They so long to please mothers they deeply love and yet long to become women in their own right.

I know I have spent much time discussing and researching the patriocentric movement on this blog and have used the word to describe the father-centered nature of the paradigm and I would still maintain that, though there is no over-bearing father holding Rapunzel captive in a remote tower, the story applies. But the fact is that I have long believed patriocentricity to be a woman-driven paradigm, one where mothers and wives are pushing the agenda and paralyzing their families with fear. My e-mails confirm this. By far the majority of letters I receive are from mothers who are grieving over having followed the siren song of Doug Phillips et al and they want to repent before it is too late. In nearly every situation, their husbands rejected these nutty teachings a long time ago and it is their wives who are the true patriocentrists! Indeed, the most vocal supporters of this movement are the hundreds of women bloggers who are Vision Forum affiliates. Where are all the men who do likewise?

As the story resolves itself and Rapunzel is restored to her own mother and father, the king and queen, and to her own position in the kingdom, one of ministering to and serving others, I couldn’t help but be reminded of 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Isn’t that the true home where all young women, where all of us truly belong?

A royal priesthood, God’s own possession, now that’s something to let your hair down about!

*One note for clarification: Let me just say that I am not a huge fan of the Disney princesses simply because their story lines always include the message that a handsome prince is necessary for ultimate joy and lifelong happiness. That, itself, is a very patriocentric notion, making these girls “normative.” Who knew Walt was so “biblical?” Also explains why I am still waiting for someone to create Gladys Alward or Amy Carmichael action figures!

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Comments

  1. says

    There were a lot of parallels between what Rapunzel experienced in the tower and what people experience in spiritually abusive groups through abusive kinds of teaching. Fear keeps us in the tower, and perfect love casts out all fear.

    Peace.

  2. susan t says

    That Mom said “1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Isn’t that the true home where all young women, where all of us truly belong?

    A royal priesthood, God’s own possession, now that’s something to let your hair down about!”

    Exactly! He who calls us out of darkness is God our Father, thru His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, via His Holy Spirit. That is walking in His Spirit, by the Light of the Word, NOT in a fallible man-made, woman-endorsed paradigm.

    Andie is right on “Perfect love casts out all fear” 1 John 4:18

    p.s. SPOILER ALERT
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    I really loved what happens with her hair at the end of the movie & the gift of real life for her that follows … one could draw several biblical parallels with that too: “1 Peter 5:7 cast all your cares & Psalm 55:22 …, heavy hand, heavy burden, heavy heart… my yoke is easy & my burden is light, Matt 23:4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them…”

  3. says

    The part that caught in my throat the most was when the King and Queen were preparing to send the lantern up and a tear falls down the King’s face.

    I couldn’t help thinking how the Most High King’s heart must be breaking for these daughters of His that have been deceived and have never known their True Father for Who He really is…

  4. susan t says

    I love Alisa’s comment- full of grace & mercy.

    That is so unlike the reflections/judgments of the writer of the review Karen links to from LAF. This choice quote is one example “In the end, Rapunzel is finally reunited with the king and queen and as the film closes, we discover some final lessons- that good governments reward sin and indulgent parents are real parents. Flynn is embraced, his thievery ignored, and welcomed, as Rapunzel’s new husband, a prince in their kingdom.” I am still stunned by these comments. I pity the jaded young woman-author who seemingly cannot recognize the real parents in this movie, the unconditional love of feeling/thinking parents, nor it appears, can she accept grace, mercy, forgiveness of the young man’s past or the possibility that he or others may be redeemed.

    And over all there is a tone of what? … I’m trying to find a good descriptive word… absolutism, legalism, idolatry for their man-made paradigm… and I find another choice quote “Though it’s a mockery and misrepresentation of homemaking, it holds an interesting element of truth. When life is divorced from a larger dominion purpose, the eventual result will be frustration and misery” If only the critical reviewer knew the TRUTH behind this statement! Because when your house is built on sand, i.e. the law of the 21st century Pharisees expressed as “larger dominion purpose”, and your life is divorced from forgiveness, grace, mercy & love of Jesus Christ, the eventual result is guaranteed to be frustration and misery. That’s right. I searched the whole review and He is missing. No Jesus, no grace, no mercy, no forgiveness. And though the word “biblical/unbiblical” is used 3 times, there is not one Bible verse written out… there are 4 citations in the footnotes, none with the verse… BUT there are lengthy quotes from a couple of authors. I’m having trouble seeing what’s biblical about that.

  5. says

    I loved this movie. Seriously one of my favorite Disney princesses ever (I’m a diehard romantic, what can I say? :-D) Though I do agree with you that they seem to portray women as generally helpless and in need of rescuing.

    Though in the case of many patrio daughters, a truly loving and compassionate man may be the only thing that will break them from the chains their parents/pastor/other authority figures have so “lovingly” place on them.

  6. says

    Still haven’t seen the movie yet, but that’s a very interesting observation.

    And while I agree that a woman doesn’t need a men to be happy or meaningful–I grew up with biographies of fantastic missionary women–I do love a good pairing of people [smile].

    ~Luke

  7. Lois Brown Loar says

    INteresting observation about wives/moms driving some of the patrio-stuff. I tend to agree in some instances, yet there are others where a husband/father clearly enjoys the power trip….

    I do notice that among homeschoolers, the dads rarely go to the conventions where these speakers…moms come home with the latest “word from God”, and start the ball rolling.

    When our oldest started into the dating years, I wanted to require the courtship thing….thank God my husband disagreed….it could have been very ugly had we tried that…

  8. Lois Brown Loar says

    INteresting observation about wives/moms driving some of the patrio-stuff. I tend to agree in some instances, yet there are others where a husband/father clearly enjoys the power trip….

    I do notice that among homeschoolers, the dads rarely go to the conventions where these speakers…moms come home with the latest “word from God”, and start the ball rolling.

    When our oldest started into the dating years, I wanted to require the courtship thing….thank God my husband disagreed….it could have been very ugly had we tried that…

    Also, this goes along with a word study I’m working on in regards to faith vs fear and how we live our lives. I was one who parented too long out of fear of what my kids would be exposed to and how it would affect their eternity. I have since learned that faith and fear(not as in respect/fear of God, but as in fear/terror/apprehension/anxiety) do not exist well together.

    I’ve been asked recently by one who likes patriocentric teachings for the scripture to support that…I may have a book for her…

  9. says

    Well, now I KNOW I need to see this film. 🙂 Creepy huh? A ‘mother’ who is so full of fear that their child will..what? Grow up? Why do they do this? Is it some deep seeded twisted idolization of their dreams for their kids to grow up to be what they wish they were?

  10. says

    Alisa and Susan, so many good insights. I am looking forward to watching Tangled a few more times once it is on DVD because I was a little overwhelmed the first time. It really stirred up a lot of emotions in me.

    I didn’t get into my take on the romance in the film. I do think you are correct, Susan, that the young man’s redemption (assumed since they married) is a factor. I do weary of the notion that there is such a thing as perfection or close to when couples court or date or whatever label you use. God in His wisdom bring young, foolish couples together in marriage and gives them babies instead of those of us who are older and think we are so much wiser! What’s with that?

    Luke, I agree with the joy of a well-made match. I just don’t think young women ought to be told or taught that it is required of all people or that it always brings happily ever after. Neither are true!

  11. says

    “Though in the case of many patrio daughters, a truly loving and compassionate man may be the only thing that will break them from the chains their parents/pastor/other authority figures have so “lovingly” place on them.”

    Joanna, I know this is true.

  12. says

    @ thatmom, I only wish it would happen for some sweet girls I know, certain family members in particular. However, their family has basically cut off the outside world, so the chances of them meeting, much less falling in love with, a man are basically nil. So this movie really did hit home for me, not for myself, but for the girls who are related to me and are so caught in these webs and chains they basically have to way to break free. They are veritable princesses locked in a tower, and I can only pray they will end up with a happy ending.

    It’s so sad to see the terrible fruits of this teaching, yet they keep sowing and sowing, barely giving pause to reflect on what they are reaping. And fault is always on the PEOPLE never the SYSTEM. 😛

  13. says

    I find it comforting that another person saw the connections.

    I personally identified very strongly, but I have never been attached to a patriocentric male.

    It was someone else who was in fact a female, but co-dependency issues and demonic strongholds are real. God is very good, to deliver us.

    When I saw Tangled, my heart got a little sick, to remember the emotions. When the young woman went back and forth after having left the first time, well, that is a true experience and it wasn’t funny to me.

    I ditto you on the Disney princesses. I keep my daughters away from it all (if we watch one of those movies, we talk about the underlying messages).

    Blessings,
    Cara Coffey

  14. Adam says

    Karen,

    But the fact is that I have long believed patriocentricity to be a woman-driven paradigm, one where mothers and wives are pushing the agenda and paralyzing their families with fear. My e-mails confirm this. By far the majority of letters I receive are from mothers who are grieving over having followed the siren song of Doug Phillips et al and they want to repent before it is too late. In nearly every situation, their husbands rejected these nutty teachings a long time ago and it is their wives who are the true patriocentrists! Indeed, the most vocal supporters of this movement are the hundreds of women bloggers who are Vision Forum affiliates. Where are all the men who do likewise?

    Karen, that is an astute observation. The same thing happens with those who say that delay of marriage is a sin. Dr. Mohler actually is the one who confirmed this. He said that, when he preached his sermon at the New Attitude conference in 2004, he got most of the follow up emails on that sermon from women. I have also noticed the same thing as I have gotten into the whole Christian Patriarchy movement. In fact, I have a friend of mine who has become part of this Christian Patriarchy movement, and she is a female.

    I have tried to reason with her, but she has become so indoctrinated in these ideas that it is hard to reason with her. For example, she said that “God changed her heart” on these ideas, when whether God did it is what the whole issue is in the first place! Don’t get me wrong, she is a good friend, but I fear for what might happen if she marries a man who is abusive, and he uses these ideas to abuse her. I also fear for what might happen if she ends up driving her children away with these ideas once she gets married and has children. She is also *extremely* imbalanced now. So much of what she posts on her Facebook page now is about marriage, family, children, and economic independency. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I don’t believe these things are important; it is simply that she is loosing her balance very quickly, and those kinds of things seem to be all-consuming.

    I keep praying for her, that God would remove the scales from her eyes, but it is difficult. I also don’t know how much of this has to do with southern culture as well, because she became convinced of these ideas when she moved down to the Carolinas. As I study the effects of the Civil War on southern culture, it seems to me that this view seems to have a natural fit in southern agrarian culture. I have another friend who doesn’t agree, but that is where I am going in my thinking on this issue.

    There seem to be many factors, but, you are right; both on the delay of marriage issue and on the Christian Patriarchy issue there seems to be a high volume of women who end up buying into these ideas, while the number of men who buy into these ideas are very small.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  15. HoppyTheToad says

    Adam,

    I also live in the Carolinas and learned about the patriarchy movement after moving here, when I was a member of a family integrated church. I’m originally from the north and sometimes wonder if it would be easier to escape all this patriarchal non-sense if we moved back.

    How do we find bible believing Christian friends that aren’t into all this legalism? Is there something about the culture of the Bible belt that makes all this craziness spread more easily than in other parts of the country? I was only a Christian before we moved south for 1 1/2 years, so it’s hard to compare, but it seems to me that Christians in the north might not be attracted to Vision Forum nearly as easily.

  16. Adam says

    HoppyTheToad,

    I can tell you that, here in Deerfield, Illinios, the Christian Patriarchy movement is not even taken seriously. I mentioned some of the issues I was dealing with back when my friend embraced these beliefs to my theology professor, and she said that the whole movement was “disturbing.” I have gotten the same kinds of reactions from talking to the students as well.

    The only thing I can think is that it is cultural. In fact, ironically, if you leave, not only the south, but also the United States, the movement is not popular at all.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  17. says

    Some thoughts:

    I have thought for a long time that there is much mingling of patriocentricity and southern culture on a number of levels. First, there is the obvious obsession with all things antebellum in the VF camp. The fact that Phillips recommends and sells the Elsie Dinsmore books to encourage young girls shows his affinity for a certain kind of woman in a feudalistic culture. I spent some time a couple years ago reading through books that talked about the standards and lifestyle of southern women in the 19th century and a couple books traced those views to the present times. I remember reading one of the patriocentric women talking about the good old days of slavery with a wistful tone. Delusional. And of course, all of these folks are pining for the “true Christian nation” they believe would have formed had the south won the war. The perspective is known as “the Civil War as a theological issue.” I plan to go further into this when I record the Patriocentricity Three series. It is such a crucial aspect of the whole movement. If there are doubts, one only needs to peel back the layers.

    The other thing that rings quite true is that “godly Christian womanhood” often looks like Southern Living Magazine. The message is quite clear that godly womanhood is for those who live in America in the 21st century and have money. Contrast this with the vast majority of women around the world who don’t even own shoes or a pot to cook in. If something is truly “godly womanhood” it must be able to apply to all women in all times and all places.

    Also, while I agree that the lifestyles are definitely rooted in southern living culture, I also think the influence of the patriocentric worldview is growing and having influence in mainline evangelicalism. Look at the changes within the Southern Baptist Convention that are reaching into seminaries and colleges that aren’t in the south. Scott Brown, an SBC pastor who runs the National Center for Family Integrated Churches and Voddie Baucham, who is also an SBC pastor, have had much influence. Voddie is now part of John Piper’s True Woman conferences. When you sit in your own normal church on a Sunday morning and see his name flashed across the announcements screen, knowing he went on CNN and opposed Sarah Palin running for office simply because she is a woman and knowing he has said so many inappropriate things, it certainly give you pause! When you hear friends talk about attending TW conferences and being asked to wave their white hankies that came in their registration packets to show commitment to being in submission, you wonder where all the thinking people have gone! Where is the discernment? Where are the white men’s handkerchiefs that symbolize their submission to one another? Many women aren’t even allowed to teach in colleges or seminaries anymore within the SBC. Women on church staffs and missionaries who have served for years are being reassigned so as not to “teach a man.”
    Recently I read a chapter in Elizabeth Elliott’s book “All That Was Ever Ours” where she talks glowingly about the Lord calling her to South America as a single mother and fulfilling roles now only men could have. It was such a stirring account of women in missions and would be such an encouragement to any young Chrsitian woman seeking to honor the Lord in how He has called her into His service. The patrios have forgotten all those things and have said “certainly EE has come to a new and proper understanding now.” Even her own daughter endorsed Passionate Housewives Desperate for God!!!
    I have an article from about 10 years ago from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that discusses what they believed women could or could not do in the church. James Boice and others believed that a woman could speak in the church during worship but now that is also not allowed by many, even missionaries or pregnancy center directors etc.aren’t allowed to speak. The CBMW has definitely moved toward the patriocentric end of the spectrum and I think it will continue to do so. I also believe it is because of the growing pro-homosexual agenda and primarily out of fear they want to move as far away from it as possible. Sadly, their rhetoric of manliness will probably cause some younger men who might be more artistic or interested in something other than NASCAR to question their own sexual identity, making them easy prey for those with a gay agenda. Those of us who want to pull things back to the center and allow for some diversity of thought or at least some reasonable discussion while examining Scripture when it comes to men and women are labeled “white washed feminists” so we can be identified with bra burning baby killing nutcases. When I started to see places like Moody Radio’s Paul Butler welcoming this stuff and when I see John Piper becoming the voice of evangelicalism on the place of women in the body of Christ, I know where we are heading.

    BTW, Adam, do you know Jeannette Hsieh? She was one of my profs in college and my student advisor while I was in education classes. She was one of my favorite teachers and a delight to study under! (She is also anathema to the patrios!!! )

  18. says

    Hoppy, well, I am a Yankee (damn Yankee to some) and I think you are correct that northerners aren’t as interested in the southern lifestyle. Of course, I think there is more than one southern lifestyle. There is the South Carolina version and there is the Texas version! But it is being called “Christian decorum” or “Christian deportment” or whatever the phrase is now.

  19. Anthea says

    Interesting post, Karen. It’ll probably be a while before this film hits our cinemas. The plot is, of course, based on a folktale, collected by the Brothers Grimm. So it’s no surprise that it resonated with you. Folktales are for adults, really, and traces of the strong, brutal content of those old tales do manage to survive the typical Disney airbrushing.

    Some commenters have complained about the happy endings of fairytales because they include an idealised view of marriage. I agree with Karen’s point (Feb 9th, 10.55 am). However, I also see some pretty rotten film endings where the heroine actively rejects marriage, as if that couldn’t possibly be good for her. For example, ‘The Princess Diaries 2’, Barbie ‘Princess and the Pauper’ for children. In the hit film, ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’, the happy ending consists of the heroine rejecting Hugh Grant’s proposal of marriage in favour of cohabiting and producing a child together shortly afterwards.

    Karen has done so much good in exposing the dangers of some weirdy weird Christian ideas. I wonder if these ideas are being taken up because women are reacting against the way that mainstream culture slags off monogamous marriage, homemakers etc. People are hungrily seeking out writers who affirm and encourage them. Then we women can be drawn into the patriocentric parallel universe…

  20. Adam says

    Karen,

    BTW, Adam, do you know Jeannette Hsieh? She was one of my profs in college and my student advisor while I was in education classes. She was one of my favorite teachers and a delight to study under! (She is also anathema to the patrios!!! )

    No, unfortunately. One of the problems that Trinity has had to address is the fact that the college and the Divinity School are so deeply divided. They have tried to do things to remedy this. They have had some of the Divinity School students teach undergrad classes over at the college, and they even built a large new student’s center which houses all of the mail for both the college and Divinity School students. They have also combined the work-study programs so that the students of the Divinity School and the University will work together.

    However, unfortunately, they still have not figured out a way to integrate the academics of both sides, and it is a shame. I have heard many people who have attended both the college and the Divinity School say that the Divinity School is far more rigerous than the college. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to integrate the two sides, since so many of the professors are well known in their fields.

    Another problem is that the academic degrees at the Divinity School do not include training in education. In fact, one of the problems I am having is that I am about done with my master’s degree, and it is going to be hard to get a job teaching without a Phd. There are some private schools that will allow Masters students without a Phd to teach, but many private schools are now requiring training in education [which is understandable]. Hence, it is hard to know if it would be best to go for a Phd, which would enable me to teach at a university, or to see if I can take some extra coursework to get a masters of education. The problem is that the Phd is going to cost more, and debt is starting to become an issue this late in my academic studies, so, knowing which to do is difficult.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  21. Adam says

    Karen,

    The film Tangled came out on DVD, and so I bought it, and watched it! I did a review and interacted with Andrea Reins’ comments on the film on my blog. I can see why these radical Patriarchalists were so up in arms over this movie.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  22. says

    The emphasis on “scary” and “dangerous” outside world IS what hooks so many into the movement. How many times must the Bates family (on the Duggar’s “19 Kids and Counting”) tell about “sheltering a young plant” or not sending a cub out to the “wolves”??? While, as you point out, this movies seems to have just an evil Mother the message is interchangeable with the patriarchy. “Real Life” begins only when the prince shows up at doorstep, passes a Phd-level theology exam, provides evidence of no debt, no college, but a paid-for home and an income adequate for raising a really full quiver. Who wouldn’t want the kidnapper after meeting some of these guys??? By comparison the Duggar girls live an almost college-like existence. But think of the Maxwells (TItus2.com ) and similar–those girls do absolutely nothing without asking Daddy first–even when 30 or more years old. So sad.

    I often wonder how many (few?) families came to this lifestyle due to decisions made alone by the father/husband. I have seen homeschool families where Mom is the total drive behind the lifestyle and Dad barely figures in except to provide the upper-middle class income necessary for the lifestyle.

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